Religion, Social Capital, and Business Bankruptcy in the United States, 1921-1932
Department of Economics, Working Paper Series, no. 2008-15. 35 pages.
We consider the value of social capital that derives from membership in a church. American states with larger churchgoing populations had lower business bankruptcy rates from 1921 to 1932, and states in which the churchgoing population was concentrated in few churches had business bankruptcy rates that were lower still. Both voluntary and involuntary bankruptcy were lower in states with higher church membership. The evidence suggests that church membership acted on bankruptcy through a safety net mechanism and not solely through indicating a preference for honoring commitment.